A DECISION will soon be made about plans to build a nickel processing and recycling plant in Dodworth - amid residents fears that it could expose them to cancer-causing toxins.

Proposals have been submitted by ELG Haniel Metals Ltd to transform a disused warehouse at the Fallbank Industrial Estate, Dodworth into a treatment plant for up to 10,000 tonnes of contaminated metal a year. It would be the first of its kind in the UK and would wash and dry high nickel alloys to allow it to be reused by the aerospace industry.

Nearby residents are worried about possible health effects after researching similar facilities in America.

A report by the Health Protection Agency into the toxicology of nickel reported nickel compounds were found to be carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

It states chronic inhalation of nickel or nickel compound could lead to illnesses such as sinusitis, respiratory tract irritation and chest problems.

Plans show the proposed plant would be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week but locals are worried that particles of nickel will spread via the 14m chimney, potentially contaminating air, land and water in the surrounding areas.

Pete Riley, a member of Penistone Friends of the Earth, said it would be up to the Environment Agency to make controls were in place and carry out regular inspections if it got the go-ahead.

"Nickel is a heavy metal and there are potential health effects from it," he said. "It has been used for some time and if we are going to continue, we would have to make sure we are using it in a safe and responsible manner and make sure nothing is goes down the drain or out of the chimney."

There was no-one at ELG Haniel Metals Ltd, or the firm's agent, Waterman Group, available for comment.

An initial ecological survey, carried out on the firm's behalf, found the site was of 'negligible ecological value' and said local wildlife would be unaffected.

Barnsley Council is now considering the proposal.